Teachers’ Participation in Research Programs Improves Their Students’ Achievement in Science

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Science  16 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5951, pp. 440-442
DOI: 10.1126/science.1177344

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Teaching Teacher

High-school science teachers rarely have an opportunity to participate in scientific research. A program from Columbia University studies what happens when these teachers do get laboratory experience. After a summer program spanning 2 years, including professional development programs, as well as laboratory research, Silverstein et al. (p. 440) show that the teachers' students benefit. Students of teachers who participated in this summer research experience showed greater pass rates on the tough New York State Regents exams than did students of teachers who did not participate in the program.


Research experience programs engage teachers in the hands-on practice of science. Program advocates assert that program participation enhances teachers’ skills in communicating science to students. We measured the impact of New York City public high-school science teachers’ participation in Columbia University’s Summer Research Program on their students’ academic performance in science. In the year before program entry, students of participating and nonparticipating teachers passed a New York State Regents science examination at the same rate. In years three and four after program entry, participating teachers’ students passed Regents science exams at a rate that was 10.1% higher (P = 0.049) than that of nonparticipating teachers’ students. Other program benefits include decreased teacher attrition from classroom teaching and school cost savings of U.S. $1.14 per $1 invested in the program.

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